Even the most experienced competitive swimmers can get a bad case of the jitters before a meet. Many athletes have their own rituals for handling pre-race stress. Some listen to loud music while others literally jump around in an attempt to get rid of their nervous energy.
In a blog post on USA Swimming's website, Mike Gustafson, a former swimmer at Northwestern University, discussed how meditation and finding Zen always put him in a good emotional place before his races.
"Finding Zen in swimming can help calm nerves, make you appreciate the water and your surroundings, and provide some detached perspective," Gustafson wrote. "Putting yourself in a Zen-like state-of-mind takes practice."
He provided the following suggestions for athletes who are trying to get into a more relaxed place before a race:
- Appreciate the moment - After attending meet after meet, swimmers may start to become bored and indifferent with their sport. Every race that you compete in is truly an accomplishment, and you should learn to embrace and appreciate your success.
- Arrive at events early - Nothing is worse that arriving at a meet at the last minute, and then scrambling to put on your competitive swimwear and find your team. Taking the time to sit, think and take deep breaths will allow you to focus on the race ahead.
- Connect with the water - Swimmers often feel like every stroke or kick is a fight with the water. During warm ups, spend time swimming completely underwater and listening to the sounds around you. The soothing sounds can help you stay calm.